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The lesson of Parson Street, Bristol - 7972/12894
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Friday, 13th March 2009
The figures for the number of passengers buying tickets to and from all the stations in Great Britain have just been publicshed for 2007-2008, and we have a chance to compare them to the 2006-2007 figures to see what's changing and what we can learn. On the TransWilts, most stations are stable except Melksham (up to 173%) and Dilton Marsh (down to 65%) ... reasons covered elsewhere.
However, I particularly noted a thread about the figures at Parson Street in Bristol on the "First Great Western Coffee Shop" and I would like to thank member Bemmy for permission to quote him here. The full thread is at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=4392 . And I'm going to add a soothsayer's comments about what we might learn on this with regards to the TransWilts ... which is why I post in "future"
Good growth ... at Parson St ...
2006/7 Footfall 19172
2007/8 Footfall 32511
1. It's not that long ago that Parson St had one train a day in each direction, so numbers started from an extremely low base.
The Transwilts only has one realistic train a day at present - the second train at 06:15 from Swindon and back there at 20:20 is ... err ... timed so much away from when people want to travel that it contributes little
2. Gradually services have increased to the current level of hourly for most of the day, half hourly in peaks. The extension of trains past Temple Meads to Filton and Parkway has made a big difference too.
Highlight ... the increase in service to a much more reasonable level, with specific care to peak provision. Also highlight the running of trains to where people want to go. In TransWilts terms, far better to provide a Chippenham to Salisbury than a Chippenham to Westbury "and change there"
3. There's been no publicity about the improved services, so to begin with most of the new trains stopped without anyone getting on or off. It's taken time for word to spread round the workplaces in the Filton area that if you live in South Bristol you can cut out more than half your commuting time by using the train.
It's actually amazing how traffic grows, but grows slowly, if it's provided but starved of publicity. We saw Melksham's ticket sales rise gently from 2001 to 2006 ... 35% per annum, which was rather below last year's 69% at Parson Street. But that was still an 7 fold increase over the five years! I can't offer a comparator telling us how well a service would grow with publicity - perhaps we should look to Ebbw Vale for an example?
4. Since the Dec 2007 timetable change connections have improved, so Parson St is useful not just for travelling towards Weston, but also Bath, Filton, Cardiff and connecting in and out of London trains and XC services.
Connections are critical! The current evening TransWilts southbound train's traffic comprises almost entirely people who are making connections. And the current morning southbound can / should be a real money spinner for First with connection to London at Westbury. It only takes a few extra 60 pound FGW fares (Melksham -> Paddington) rather than have people drive to Grateley or Andover and go on SWT to turn the finances around. But just choosing ONE example there is giving it undue weight - there are LOTS of such journeys. "Chippenham to Chichester", "Swindon to St Austell".
5. There is no bus service to Temple Meads from SW Bristol and more people are finding out about the train.
You try Chippenham to Salisbury by bus. Or Melksham to Swindon after 08:30. You end up with changes, with the need to walk across Chippenham ...
6. The inbound 75/76 bus stop was moved to outside the station a couple of years ago and people from Hartcliffe and Withywood have started changing to and from the train at Parson St.
The 271, 272, 273, 234 all go within 100 yards of the station at Melksham. But you have to walk at least 400 yards to get on any of them, and you have to know where you're going. Land is actually reserved for a through bus link and a roundabout already built on the Spencer's gate development to connect to it ... it just leads to a fence at the moment.
Take those bust routes, take the "14" town bus, and serve the station and you'll get the Melksham Forest, the Semington and the Bowerhill traffic, and the Atworth traffic too. I think the Corsham bus goes past too ;-)
7. The station looks welcoming nowadays. The entrance used to make it look bleak and scary, a few years back it was renovated with a shelter and vastly improved train information. And there are flowerbeds on the platforms.
There is huge scope at Melksham ... to be welcoming and much more ...
8. In comparison with Bedminster, Parson St serves a much larger residential area (most of the houses in central Bedminster were demolished, some as slum clearance, others to make way for a road that was never built). But traditionally more trains have always stopped at Bedminster, which used to serve a lot of workplaces, although most of the factories are long since gone. These days, on the trains I use, there are usually more getting on and off at Parson St than Bedminster.
Factories were demolished just up the way a couple of years ago, and now there's housing. There are 200 (?) new houses going on another brownfield site - the old "George Ward" - in 2010/11. There is a superstore going adjacent to the railway about 400 yards up from the station. And although some of the jobs are in Melksham, many are not - they're in Swindon, Chippenham, Bristol ...
The following extra comments made when I asked for permission to slash the above post about.
It's also a good example of how reality can exceed expectations. When they improved the Bedminster / Parson St service, it was just political correctness -- an easy improvement to make as the stations were already there and the trains already running. It wasn't based at all on forecast demand, and I don't think anyone expected numbers to increase anything like they have done. First were probably hoping that after a couple of years they could say "see we stop the trains but no-one uses them" and withdraw the stops, which are an operational inconvenience.
I think that sounds so familiar. I remember when our trains ceased for 10 days and er made sure that we had a high profile party at the station to welcome them back to ensure that they were on steel and not rubber wheels ...
Just imagine how busy Parson St would be if it was part of a suburban network!
And how busy Melksham WILL be when we have it as an integrated travel connection point in a greatly grown Chippenham / Melksham / Trowbridge.
Bemmy - many thanks for sharing your Parson Street thoughts - they help point where we are and where we are headed.
Re: The lesson of Parson Street, Bristol - 7972/12895
Written by admin (Graham Ellis) on Friday, 13th March 2009
P.S. See original thread at http://www.firstgreatwestern.info/coffeeshop/index.php?topic=4392.0
Re: The lesson of Parson Street, Bristol - 7972/12896
Written by Lee on Friday, 13th March 2009
[quote author=Graham Ellis link=topic=7972.msg12894#msg12894 date=1236945625]It's also a good example of how reality can exceed expectations. When they improved the Bedminster / Parson St service, it was just political correctness -- an easy improvement to make as the stations were already there and the trains already running. It wasn't based at all on forecast demand, and I don't think anyone expected numbers to increase anything like they have done. First were probably hoping that after a couple of years they could say "see we stop the trains but no-one uses them" and withdraw the stops, which are an operational inconvenience.[/quote]
Interestingly, Parson Street is one of the stations where FGW include stops above those required in the specification. See Page 85 of the link below.
Only six services in each direction on Monday-Friday, and two in each direction on Sundays are actually required to call at Parson Street.
Providing calls on Saturdays is completely optional.
[quote author=Graham Ellis link=topic=7972.msg12894#msg12894 date=1236945625]Just imagine how busy Parson St would be if it was part of a suburban network!
And how busy Melksham WILL be when we have it as an integrated travel connection point in a greatly grown Chippenham / Melksham / Trowbridge.[/quote]
Indeed. See example proposal below.
link to index of articles
Save the Train was the campaign to bring an approriate train service back to and through Melksham.
Most big contributors are still around writing at the Coffee shop forum where new members are very welcome.
The train has been saved - sort of - we have stepped back up from an unusable service to a poorish one but it's doing very well. We did that through setting up the TransWilts Community Rail Partnership. That fulfilled its early objectives; it has been taken over by local and regional government types who are now doing medium and long term work. The team from this forun can also be found at the Melksham Rail User Group (which was the Melksham Rail Development Group at the time these articles were written and we had no users.
We mustn't loose sight, though, that the train service remains poor and needs our community support in marketing and campaigning to keep it going in a positive direction ... and all the more so when we're expecting to find a different normallity once we get out of the Coronavirus Pandemic and head for zero carbon via the climate crisis. Yes, it's saved ... it's now a key community facility ... the need for enhancement and the strong and near-universal local support remain, and the rail industry and goverment remain slow to move and provide the enhancements even to level us up with other towns. Please support the Melksham Rail User Group - now very much in partnership rather than protest with the rail industry and local government, including GWR, TransWilts and unitary and town councils. And please use the trains and buses, and cycle and walk when you can.
-- Graham Ellis, (webmaster), February 2021
Letter to DfT
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